San Francisco
Part 1

When Pop asked me if I could accompany him to San Francisco on a business trip, I figured there was no way my mom would allow me to go. She was fixing dinner in the kitchen when I told her about his offer.

"Do you know why they call California "la la land", Daniel?"

"'Cause everybody sings?"

"Not quite. Besides, I'm not so sure I trust Pop. He's... well, he's not..."

"Normal?"

"He's eccentric."

"He's totally cool, mom. Honest! Pop wouldn't hurt a fly."

"It's your fly that I'm worried about."

"Mom, for crying out loud, if Pop was gonna try something, he would've done it already. Anyway, it's me who teases him. He gets all bent outa shape, and it's just so damn funny when... well..."

"When?"

"I tease him."

"Tease him?"

"Hey, it's just the usual guy stuff, mom. All guys goof off like that. You wouldn't understand. I do the same kinda stuff at his house as I do here, y'know, like get naked in the pool and whatever. It freaks Pop out. He doesn't know which way to look."

"That's what worries me. If he treated nudity as something normal and healthy, that would be OK. But apparently he doesn't. Anyway, why you? Why would he want you as a travel companion? Did he give you a reason?"

"He likes me. He gets a buzz outa my company. Is that so bad?"

"It's not normal for a man his age to be associating with a teenager."

"I guess that also means it's not normal for me to be associating with him, either. I don't see what the problem is, mom. If he likes me and I like him, what's the biggie?"

"The biggie, as you put it, is that I think he likes you too much." Mom placed the chicken in the oven, wiped her hands on a towel, then looked me straight in the eye. "If Pop ever got out of line here in Tampa, we could do something about it. But in San Francisco? Do you realize how far away from Tampa that is? If there was a problem..."

"What kinda problem?"

"Any kind of problem."

"Like he's gonna hit on me or something? Jeez, mom! Don't you think I can handle myself? Besides, I trust Pop. He wouldn't try anything. And even if he did, I'd be outa there quicker than a scalded cat. Do you think I'd go to San Francisco with him if I didn't think Pop was cool?"

"You're young and impressionable, Daniel. People like Pop take advantage of that."

"Oh? So I've changed since I met Pop? How have I changed? Huh? I'm still the same guy, mom. Anyway, it's Pop who's changed, not me."

"You're saying he's the one who's impressionable?"

"When I met him, he was a grumpy old fart."

"And now?"

"OK. He's still a grumpy old fart."

"You've obviously made quite an impact."

Pop didn't wanna go to San Francisco. He hated big cities... the crowds, the traffic, the noise. "Besides, the damn place is full of hills and mountains. You can't stand up straight unless one leg's shorter than the other."

Actually, I enjoyed Pop's sense of humor... I called it 'grumpy humor'. He reminded me a bit of Walter Matthau in the way he would crack a joke, then pretend he didn't understand it. "And they get fogs that last until midday. Like I need another fog? I've got my own damn fog."

"Mom's not too happy about me going to San Francisco," I said as I parked my butt on Pop's kitchen bench.

"So don't go. The last thing I need is your mom being mad at me."

"It's the principle! She's got this fucking thing about you being eccentric. She's worried that... well, you know."

"Yes, I do know. And she's gonna be worried every second of every day you're away. I should never have asked you. Let's forget it."

"Maybe you could speak to her."

"Why? To justify the situation from my perspective? No, Daniel. That would only make things worse. If she doesn't trust me, she doesn't trust me. End of story."

"I trust you."

"Here in Tampa? Sure. What about thousands of miles away?"

"What's the diff? You'll still be you. I'll still be me. Anyway, that's not the point. I'm a teen, not some fucking snotty-nosed kid in diapers. I can take care of myself. Mom's gotta realize that I'm capable of making my own decisions now."

"Being capable is one thing, Daniel. Being right is quite another."

"You don't think it's right for me to go with you to San Francisco?"

"It's not what I think. It's what your mother thinks "

"She said that California is "la la land". Maybe that's what worries her."

"Look at me. I'm wearing a towel, and I'm barefooted... and I've got the world's craziest teen sitting on my kitchen bench, wearing nothing but baggy shorts, roller blades, and a ridiculous grin. So California is supposed to be "la la land"?"

"It would be soooo fucking cool, Pop," I pleaded. "I wanna see San Francisco. I wanna see the people. The Golden Gate Bridge. The beaches. I wanna blade down the main street looking like this. I wanna turn heads. Woohoo! That would be just so damn rad!"

"Does that mean you're willing to go against your mother's wishes?"

I hopped down from the bench, then bladed slowly around the table a couple of times. "No. But I'm not sure what I can say to convince her that it'll be OK. Any ideas? Dammit! Hey, Pop! You're gawking at my chest again! Pop? Any ideas?"

"Huh?"

"Never mind. I'll figure something out."

Yeah, right. Like what? I asked myself as I bladed home. I was a minor. Whatever mom said was law... not that she restricted my freedom all that much. She was pretty cool, really. The prob was that she really didn't know me. If she'd known about the sex I'd had with my buds, and the kinda things I did when I teased Pop, she would've freaked big time. Or would she? Hmmm.

When I arrived home, mom was watching TV with Andy. Not a good time for a private chat, so I went to Greg's room and knocked on his door.

"Hi, bro. C'mon on in."

"Whatcha doin'?"

"Just chillin'. What's eating you?"

"It shows?" I asked as I sat on the side of his bed, and watched him surfing the net. There was a cool pic of a windsurfer on the screen. "You into windsurfing now?"

"Not really... just found this site by accident."

"That's the Golden Gate Bridge in the background."

"Yeah. Hey, check this guy out... he's in the air, man... flying. How fucking rad is that? Wow!"

"Mom doesn't want me to go to San Francisco with Pop."

"He invited you?"

"He's going there on some kinda business... asked me if I wanted to go with him."

"You and Pop in a hotel room? Yeah, right."

"Thanks, bro," I said sarcastically as I headed for the door. "You've been a big fucking help."

About fifteen minutes later, Greg came into my room as I was flooding my brain with loud music, trying to drown out my thoughts. He took the earphones off my head, then sat on the bed. "Sorry, bro."

"You're just as bad as mom. What is it with everybody? Why does everybody think I don't have a fucking mind of my own? Anyway, Pop's changed his mind. He doesn't wanna upset mom."

"Why did he want you to go with him in the first place?"

"Company. What else?"

"Hey, Pop's a pretty cool guy... but company?"

"I don't fucking believe this. I'm gonna take Kyle for a walk."

"I'll come with you."

"I'd rather you didnt."

I watched Kyle bounding from tree to tree, pausing to sniff the base of a trunk, or to cock his leg for a quick piss. Life was so damn simple for him. But at least the night air and the deserted streets gave me a sense of space; a sense of freedom. Freedom? Yeah, right. That was something I didn't have. Not really. How could I be myself if I didn't have the courage to be honest and upfront with my folks? Was mom right? Could I blame her for worrying about me? Did she suspect that I wasn't the sweet little angel I made myself out to be?

I stood outside Pop's house for a couple of minutes, wondering whether or not I should talk to him. The light in his front room was on. But what would be the point? We'd only go round and round in the same old fucking frustrating circles again.

The moment Pop opened the front door, Kyle flew down the hallway, probably 'cause he recognized my scent from earlier that day. Freaked the hell outa Pop for a second or two. I thought his bushy eyebrows were gonna stay permanently stuck to the ceiling.

"Hi, Pop. Just taking Kyle for a walk."

"Are you sure it's not the other way around? What can I do for you?"

"Nothing," I shrugged. "Just thought I'd stop by and say hi."

"Are you sure that's all?"

"Yeah... uh... no. It's not all. I wanna go to San Francisco with you, but I dunno how to change mom's mind."

"They say it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind."

"Can we talk for a sec?"

"Sure."

After blading down the hall, I arrived at the kitchen where Kyle's black nose was busily investigating everything in sight. "Hey, boy! Settle!"

"He's a lovely dog, Daniel," Pop remarked as he entered the room. "Bit frisky, though. You should have him on a leash."

"He doesn't like being on a leash. Wanna coffee?" Without waiting for an answer, I filled the electric jug, and plugged it into the power. Then I spooned coffee and sugar into two cups. "Pop, do you know what a dilemma is?"

"I've had one or two. You're the second one."

"Be serious, Pop."

"I am."

After placing the steaming cups of coffee on the table, I sat opposite Pop and watched him pour a nip of brandy into his cup before stirring it. "I wanna go to San Francisco with you. So how do I convince my mom that I'll be safe?"

"That's something she won't know until you're safely back home again. Everytime you walk out the door you take a risk, whether it's going to school, or riding around on those crazy boots of yours. There are no guarantees, Daniel."

"So you're saying I can't tell my mom that everything's gonna be cool."

"That's right."

Copyright 2001 All rights reserved. mrbstories


 

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